July 28th……….“TELL US, GRANDPA, HOW DID YOUR PARENTS FIND WAYS TO START AND COMPLETE LARGE PROJECTS ON YOUR FARM. DID THEY BORROW MONEY? OR FIND OTHER, MORE OLD-FASHIONED WAYS TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN”??
The nails, embedded within those old walls, screamed out in agony, or so it seemed, by the screeching sounds they made upon removal with Dad’s claw hammer. If the claw hammer failed to “get ‘er dun”, Dad’s sinewy muscles maneuvered his clawed wrecking bar into place and drove the claw “home” with a short sledge hammer. Now, it was just a matter of leverage against the 90 degree bent end of the tool and that nail gave up its place and came away to drop to the floor below.
Earlier that day, our father, Russell, had hooked up his two wheel “flat rack” onto our Farmall Super M tractor and had me climb aboard for the ride the two of us would make into our hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. Arriving at the intersection, to the south of our farm, Dad checked both ways for cars on the east/west asphalt highway. Slowly letting out the tractor’s clutch, Russ cranked the steering wheel to make a left turn at the top of Ozmun’s hill. With the trailer still obediently behind us, he shifted that dear Farmall into road gear and we began to fly as those massive, chevroned rubber treads of the tractor tires sang their own song as their blurred, rotating image matched the brisk winds that cooled us as we came nearer to our lovely village we all called home………Kiester.
There’s an old adage that goes, “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”. Our father’s “treasure” that day was a decrepit old house within the city limits of our village that had been abandoned for some time and was made available to anyone who wanted to salvage the lumber from that old abode. “Free is a VERY good price”……and that’s just what this house offered to our farm family………free wood for the taking. Our folks had a dream to build a two car garage and shop on our home place and this old house was to supply most of that lumber.
Our beloved, hard-working parents came from what is called, “The Greatest Generation”. They were hardened by the lean times of the 1930’s, with its economic depression and then had to sacrifice for our soldiers, sailors and Marines during World War II. The mindset of those days was to “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and that mantra was a staple of how they lived out their daily lives; especially when it came to “stretching the dollar” to make our farm as successful as they could.
When we pulled up in front of that derelict old home, it seemed to speak to me, in a way. I could almost hear the nails pleading to stay in the walls of what once had housed an entire family and their life energies. Yet, as a seed kernel of corn dies in the soil, in order to bring a new crop to life, it would be the destiny of this old house to give up her lumber to “live again” in the form of our new garage and shop.
I questioned why Dad would even want to go to the efforts to build that two car garage and shop. I can only assume that #1. It would give him a safe place for our car and pickup over the frigid winters, instead of being covered in snow and frozen stiff. And, #2. It could have been that Dad desired a large shop to be able to pull large welding and repair projects in out of the weather. His original shop building was so small, it could only house his tools. And, therefore, he was relegated to making repairs while being subjected to any and all kinds of weather.
In those summer months, we sometimes “harvested” lumber from the old house during the daylight hours and hauled the wood home to stack for the big day when our new garage construction began. Yet, there were also times, after our dairy herd were milked for the evenings, that we’d hook up the trailer and head into town for another load of wooden “gold” before the sun went down and made it too hard to see inside that non-electric house.
I had always been raised to respect the sanctity of other people’s homes. It was, in a sense, as if someone’s home was sacred ground and you showed respect by never entering it unless you were first invited in by the family. Well, even though there was no longer a family in that dilapidated old house, I felt uneasy, the first few times, of stepping inside the front door with Dad.
While my handsome Norwegian father and I worked together in demolition, the late afternoon sun would often flood through the rippled glass windows and its illuminated golden rays of light shone through the floating dust in the air that resulted from our hammering and sawing.
Being the little adventurer I was, I’d take a break from ripping out nails and slowly climb up the creaking stairs to the second story of the home and explore what use to be the family bedrooms. From those room’s vantage point, I’d look out over neighboring rooftops from those cracked and lonely looking upstairs windows. In my limited little boy knowledge, I surmised that this old house could have been as much as a century old at the time we began making it yield up its wood to us for our building project at our farm.
Even as a young boy of 11 or 12 years, at the time, I couldn’t help but muse upon how many families had called this place home in their days. I pondered how this building had once housed the laughter of birthday parties, the hugs of family reunions and joyous Christmas holidays within these same walls that Dad and I were now taking apart, one by one.
After the investment of our father’s sweat, splinters, blood and blisters……..we could give the good Lord thanks and praise for the new life that that old lumber had bestowed upon us in allowing us to create our new lovely two car garage with adjoining shop that made our farm out in the country seem “right uptown” as that old house had once been.
Now there was a dry place for our family car and our old Ford pickup truck during icy winter months. And, Dad even had the joy of setting up a stove in the shop side of our new garage to keep himself warm in the winter while doing repairs and hobbies in our new fancy “car heaven”.
That old house, in Kiester, had been re-born to bless the family of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.